Federal Crucifixion Flashback: Gibson Guitar

Remember this? Rewind to August 2011.

Federal agents swooped in on Gibson Guitar Wednesday, raiding factories and offices in Memphis and Nashville, seizing several pallets of wood, electronic files and guitars. The Feds are keeping mum, but in a statement yesterday Gibson's chairman and CEO, Henry Juszkiewicz, defended his company's manufacturing policies, accusing the Justice Department of bullying the company. "The wood the government seized Wednesday is from a Forest Stewardship Council certified supplier," he said, suggesting the Feds are using the aggressive enforcement of overly broad laws to make the company cry uncle.

It isn't the first time that agents of the Fish and Wildlife Service have come knocking at the storied maker of such iconic instruments as the Les Paul electric guitar, the J-160E acoustic-electric John Lennon played, and essential jazz-boxes such as Charlie Christian's ES-150. In 2009 the Feds seized several guitars and pallets of wood from a Gibson factory, and both sides have been wrangling over the goods in a case with the delightful name "United States of America v. Ebony Wood in Various Forms."

There has never been a satisfactory explanation for the government's aggressive behavior toward Gibson. The "crime" they were accused of involved using a specific type of wood to make guitars. It hardly demanded fully armed tactical teams swooping into the guitar maker's factory. The factory had been there for decades, and wood is heavy. There was no flight or fight risk. But the two raids were very intimidating.

There was a dual agenda at work, involving union and foreign labor. The administration crucified Gibson, to use the EPA's lingo, to promote that agenda via fear. To make an example out of Gibson. The "crime" of using the wrong wood served merely as the excuse to hang the non-union, GOP supporting guitar maker on a prosecutorial cross.

Did the feds build their cross out of illegal ebony? Who would prosecute them if they did?